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The U-2 and the AVRO Arrow 


At 9:51 am, March 25th, 1958, some fifty years 
ago, the elegant CF-105 A.V. Roe Arrow took to 
the sky for its maiden flight (see Fig 1: the CF-105 
Arrow). Just five years after its beginnings as a 
research project in 1953 the Arrow took to the 
skies. The Arrow was the pride of Canada's aero- 
space industry. In half a century, no other Cana- 
dian undertaking, save perhaps the development 
of CANDU, has matched this achievement. 

The most advanced aircraft of its kind in the 
world at the time, within a year of its maiden 
flight, due to a change in Government and its pri- 
orities, the Arrow program would be canceled, the 
prototype aircraft destroyed, the blueprints seized, 
classified or destroyed and the talented people 
who built this wonder scattered to the wind. 

It has only been in recent years, and with the 
demise of the Soviet Union in 1991, that many 
of the remaining confidential documents have 
become available for- historians to put together a 
candid account of the history of the Arrow pro- 
gram. Today almost all of the remaining docu- 
ments relating to the Arrow program have been 
made public. 

In 1997 a Canadian made for TV feature film 
about the Arrow, starring Dan Aykroyd as the 
powerful and partisan Crawford Gordon, was 
produced. The CBC film introduced another gen- 
eration of Canadians to a story of the Arrow - all 
be it a far from complete history. Within the Ayk- 
royd film is perpetuated a myth that the Ameri- 
cans wanted the Arrow program canceled because 
it was the only aircraft in the world able to climb 
to above 20,000 metres and "engage" the then 
super secret U-2 surveillance aircraft. 

The fact of the matter is that while the U-2 
did play a role in the cancellation of the Arrow pro- 
gram, historians have not properly touched upon 
the real relationship between the two aircraft over 
the past five decades. As well, the monumental 
event that coincided with the rolling out of the 
first Arrow, the launch of Sputnik 1, was far from 
a happenstance but may have been timed by the 
Politburo to give the West a not so subtle message. 
Aircraft like the Arrow were machines without a 
mission - rockets were the way of the future. 

Much has been written of this pivotal moment 
in Canadian aerospace history. In the way of this 
article I would like to add a little bit to the Arrow 

Figure i: The CF-105 Arrow. 

history by saying I wouldn't be here today were 
it not for the Arrow. My parents met on a boat 
coming back from France, my father a young 
RCAF officer and aeronautical engineer serving 
with 2nd Fighter Wing in France, and my mother 
a glamorous French Canadian school teacher 
from Montreal on her way back from a holiday 
in France. Ol course, in true Canadian fashion 
my father could not speak French and my mother 
could not speak English when they met. 

My father, a mechanical and aeronautical engi- 
neer, had been ordered by the Chief of the Defense 
staff to return from his operational duties look- 
ing after the CF-86 Canadair Sabre and CF-100 
A.V. Roe Canuck jet interceptors that were part 
of Canada's NATO commitments in Europe, to 
Ottawa to help the advanced jet engine programs 
for the Sabre and Canuck aircraft, and to assist in 
a review of the operational requirements and cost- 
ing of the proposed acquisition of 120 CF-105's 
(see Fig. 2: RCAF Officer Steve Bruskiewich with 
colleague, circa 1954). 

On the weekends he would drive from Ottawa 
to Montreal to court my mother. While the Arrow 

was a stillborn, I came kicking and screaming 
into the world a few years after their marriage a 
half century ago. The Arrow is no longer but I am 
here today to write this article. I grew up under- 
standing more of the story of the Arrow than all 
but a handful of RCAF types, A.V. Roe employ- 
ees and aviation historians. It seems the U-2 and 
the Arrow were tied, one to the other, in a unique 

On September 17th, 1956 an incident involv- 
ing fighters of the R.C.A.F. stationed in Europe and 
a mysterious aircraft resulted in one of the most 
secret events involving Canadians during the Cold 
War. The unidentified aircraft was first detected 
high over central Poland by the Canadian manned 
radar station at Metz. Over the space of two hours 
the unidentified aircraft flew a direct line due 
west, entering the Canadian controlled air sector 
in Western Europe. 

28 Canadian Undergraduate Physics Journal 


^ mm 


Figure 2: RCAF Officer Steve Bruskiewich (right) 

Four Mark 6 CF-86 Sabre jets from the Second 
Canadian Fighter Wing stationed at Grostenquin 
France were scrambled to intercept this high flying 
aircraft (refer to Fig. 3: CF-86 Sabre Jet). The four 
jets were on "Zulu Alert" - jet fighters kept on 
standby, fully fueled and armed, ready to be air- 
borne in under two minutes. 

Flight Lt. Tony Hannas, a 421 squadron pilot 
from Leduc Alberta, was the ground controller 
who vectored the flight of four CF-86's, a section 
led by Flight Lt. John McElroy, a Canadian Ace 
from the Second World War. These Mark 6 Sabres 
had been manufactured under license at Canadair 
outside of Montreal and sported a Canadian made 
Orenda engine. They were the fastest, highest 
flying and best Sabre jets in Europe. The Canadian 
pilots flying these jets were also the "best fly boys" 
in NATO at the time. 

When it was first detected at the Canadian 
manned radar station at Metz the unidentified 
aircraft was at an altitude 5,000 metres above the 
operational ceiling of the CF-86's. The four Mark 
6 CF-86s were vectored to a holding position 
below and in line of the descending aircraft. When 
the mysterious aircraft entered Western European 
airspace the "bogey began to rapidly descend" and 
the four aircraft climbed to attempt a visual iden- 

Two Sabre jets took up position, one at each 
wing tip, while Flight Lt. John McElroy and his 
wing man took up position astern of the mysteri- 
ous aircraft. The mysterious aircraft did not sport 
any identifying marks or roundels, and was of a 
design never before seen by the pilots, silver with 
thin wings that span a greater distance than the 
aircraft was long. The aircraft was not of a type 
found in the quick identification booklets attached 

Figure 3: Four CF-86 Sabre in Diamond 
Formation with Flight Lt. Hannas in the lead. 

ries, both from the radar station at Metz and from 
Fit. Lt. McElroy, went unacknowledged. 

Following standard procedures Fit. Lt. McEl- 
roy activated his gun cameras and armed his guns. 
The arming of the guns of a Sabre jet is a double 
redundant process with two dummy rounds for 
each gun and a double switch system. When his 
guns were armed Fit. Lt. McElroy ordered the two 
Sabre jets at the wing tips of the mysterious aircraft 
to disengage. Before Fit. Lt. McElroy could fire live 
rounds the mysterious aircraft disintegrated before 
his very eyes. The gun cameras would confirm 
that no pilot ejected from the aircraft. The rem- 
nants of the aircraft was scattered over the German 
country side about 20 km east of Wiesbaden. 

When the section of four CF-86's returned to 
base, the airfield had already been locked down 
by the U.S. Air Force. The second in command 
of NATO, a senior US General, would that after- 
noon call the Base Commanding Officer at Second 
Canadian Fighter Wing on the carpet, "God damn 
it ... you crazy Canadians have just shot down one 
of our own aircraft!" 1 The Canadians pilots stood 
accused of shooting down a U-2 aircraft returning 
from a secret high altitude photo-reconnaissance 
mission over Russia and Eastern Europe. The 
civilian pilot of the U-2, Howard Carey, was killed 
in the incident. 

A post-incident inquiry by the R.C.A.F. would 
determine that the canvas over the gun ports on Fit. 
Lt. McElroy 's Sabre were intact, and a counting of 
the rounds would show that indeed no live rounds 
had been fired. The film from the gun camera was 
taken and not returned to the R.C.A.F., but instead 
was lost in the "deep black" of the U-2 archives. 

A secret US report would subsequently deter- 
mine that the wake from the two Sabre jets at the 
wing tips of U-2 most likely caused the structural 
failure of the aircraft's wings, which were only rated 
to 3-g. In 1960 the head of the U-2 program Rich- 









Figure 4: Tupolev Tu-95 Bear. 

■d Bissell 

ermany did in 



"In September, 1956, Howard Carey, a contract 
pilot I had known at Watertown, was killed in a 
U-2 crash in Germany. There was some confusion 
as to what actually happened, initial speculation 
ranging all the way to sabotage. It was later deter- 
mined, however, that while in flight Carey had 
been buzzed by two curious Canadian Air Force 
interceptors. Caught in their wake turbulence as 
they passed him, his U-2 had apparently simply 
disintegrated." 2 

Beginning in July 1956, the U-2 was flown 
from Wiesbaden, West Germany.3 Soon after 
the "Canadian Incident" the US moved its U-2's to 
Giebelstadt. The Canadians were told "in future to 
keep your Mark 6's away from the U-2." 

By the mid-1950's work was underway to 
replace the CF-86 and CF-100 jets with a new 
fighter interceptor, the CF-105 Arrow. The Arrow 
was a Canadian designed and built twin engine, 
tailless delta wing supersonic aircraft. For its time 
it was the most advanced, sophisticated and costly 
high performance jet interceptor in the world. The 
delta wing design allowed for the lightest wing, for 
a low thickness to chord ratio, while still provided 
the required structural strength, sufficient fuel 
capacity and space for undercarriage stowage. 

The Arrow was designed for the purpose of 
intercepting Soviet bombers, such as the Tupolev 
Tu-95 Bear, a large intercontinental turboprop 
bomber which came into operation in the 1955 
(see Fig. 4: Tupolev Tu-95 Bear). The development 
of the Tupolev Tu-95 Bear began in 1951 , two years 
before the development of the Arrow began. 

During the annual Soviet Aviation Day festivi- 
ties in 1955 a handful of long range bombers were 
flown repeatedly over the Kremlin to deceive 


Canadian Undergraduate Physics Journal 29 

Western observers and give them the mistaken 
impression that there many such bombers in 
operational use. Based on insufficient intelligence 
and worst case assumptions, by the spring of 1956 
the US Air Force predicted that 500 interconti- 
nental bombers would eventually be deployed 
by the Soviet Union. This would precipitate what 
became known in Washington as the "Bomber 
Gap" between the US and the Soviet Union. In 
fact there would never be more than two hundred 
Soviet long-range bombers built. In comparison, 
by the late 1950's the US would have 340 intercon- 
tinental and 1,300 intermediate range bombers in 

Today there are a handful of turboprop Tu-95 
aircraft still in operation, armed with super- 
sonic cruise missiles. They are still occasionally 
observed on long-range patrols off both Canada's 
east and west coast, and on occasion at the edge of 
Canada's north. 

During the 1956 Presidential election incum- 
bent President Dwight D. Eisenhower had to con- 
tend with accusations from his political rivals that 
a "Bomber Gap" had opened between the Soviet 
Union and the United States, and that the Soviet 
Union was leaping ahead of the West in Intercon- 
tinental Bombers. It all turned out to be a Soviet 

It did not bode well for the Arrow Program that 
Sputnik 1 was launched the very same day as the 
roll-out of the first completed Arrow on October 
4th, 1957 (see Fig. 5: Launch of Sputnik 1). This 
may have not been a happenstance, but a con- 
scious decision by the Soviet Politburo, to time 
the launch of Sputnik with the roll out of the first 
Arrow. The lack of Soviet Bombers and the launch 
of Sputnik would ultimately seal the fate of the 
Arrow program. 

During the first forty years of its existence, the 
launching of Sputnik 1 was perhaps the single and 

most decisive political act by the Soviet Union. 
The success of Sputnik and the lead that the Soviet 
Union had in rockets and launch capacity over 
the United States encouraged a decision by Soviet 
General Secretary Khruschev in 1957 to initiate a 
strategic missile arms race with the US. Up until 
then the United States held supremacy over the 
USSR in the field of long-range aviation. 

With little prospect of catching up with the 
US in terms of quality and quantity of long-range 
aircraft, Khruschev decided to change the focus of 
the competition from aviation to space technology, 
initiating a "Space Race" between the Superpow- 

From its inception the Arrow program was 
predicated on the assumption that the Soviet 
Union would build squadron after squadrons of 
intercontinental bombers capable of delivering 
atomic weapons to North America. 

President Eisenhower, himself the former 
Supreme Commander in Europe during World 
War Two, understood the importance of good 
intelligence. He was both cautious and pragmatic 
when it came to analysis and assessment. In the 
middle 1950's as President Eisenhower would 
propose his Open Skies policy, which would have 
allowed the over flight of each other's territory as a 
confidence building measure. 

Both the United States and the Soviet Union 
had been attacked without warning by their ene- 
mies during the Second World War, the U.S.S.R. 
in the summer of 1941 by Germany and the U.S. 
in December of that same year by Japan. Despite 
the fact both superpowers had such a common 
experience, Soviet Premier Khruschev rejected 
Eisenhower's Open Skies proposal in 1955 at the 
Geneva Summit. 

Following the rejection of his Open Skies pro- 
posal, President Eisenhower approved the building 
of the high flying U-2 surveillance aircraft, which 
was built in record time and became operational 

in 1956 (see Fig. 6: The U-2 surveillance aircraft). 
Knowing that it was a matter of time before the U-2 
would be shot down or crash due to an accident, 
Eisenhower would also seek the building of space 
based satellites like Corona to allow continued sur- 
veillance of the Soviet Union from low earth orbit. 
The first overflight of Eastern Europe by a U-2 
occurred on June 20th, 1956. The first overflight 
of the Soviet Union by a U-2 occurred on July 4th, 
1956. Beginning in 1957, in a special arrangement 
with Britain, U-2's would be flown in Europe by 
British pilots. The high altitude photographs and 
other intelligence gathered by these overflights 
would be shared between both countries (see 
Fig. 7: U-2 picture of a Soviet bomber base north 
of Moscow taken from 20,000 metre altitude in 

To this day the 1956 "Canadian incident" has 
yet to be fully presented, and is one of the myster- 
ies of the Cold War. As a result of this incident, 
the Chief of the Canadian Air Staff and the Prime 
Minister of Canada, would have been made aware 
of the U-2 and its special purpose by his colleagues 
President Eisenhower and British Prime Minister 
Harold Macmillan. 

To a limited degree President Eisenhower and 
British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan would 
have also "shared the product"- the assessments 
of the actual bomber strengths of the Soviet Union 
with the Canadian Prime Minister. With this 
information it would be obvious large numbers 
of Arrows were unnecessary for the defense of 

History appears to show that the Rt. Hon. John 
Diefenbaker protected the confidence that his col- 
leagues and friends President Eisenhower and 
British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan placed 
in him and took this secret to the grave. 

Over flights of the Soviet Union continued 
until a U-2 flown by Gary Power was shot down 
by Soviet SAM-2 surface to air missiles on Mayday 
1960. To catch this U-2 they boxed the pilot in 

Figure 5: Launch of Sputnik 1 . 

Figure 6: The U-2. 

Figure 7: 1957 U-2 picture of a Soviet bomber 
base taken from 20,000 metre altitude. 

3 Canadian Undergraduate Physics Journal 


with SAM-2 rockets and then downed the aircraft 
by shooting a SAM-2 straight up. Ironically, the 
proximity fuse used on the SAM-2 was a design 
stolen by the Russians off the Americans. Fortu- 
nately, by 1960 Corona satellites were beginning 
to return useful pictures and intelligence from low 
earth orbit and so further U-2 overflights of the 
Soviet Union became unnecessary. 

One of President Eisenhower's greatest gift to 
his successors in the White House were the U-2 
and space-based surveillance platforms that has 
helped successive US Presidents in their foreign 
policy decisions. Good intelligence builds con- 
fidence and keeps national leaders from making 
irrevocable and devastating mistakes in judgment. 
Some of the best pictures taken from a U-2 would 
be those of the Baikonur launch facility where 
Sputnik 1 was launched in October 1957 (see 
Fig. 8: 1957 U-2 picture of Baikonur taken from 
20,000 metre altitude). 

One of the most important U-2 picture ever 
taken was on its first flight over the Soviet Union 
on July 4th, 1956. It was a picture of the only heavy 
j et bombers the Soviet Air Force had in existence at 
the time, a handful of Bison bombers. This large, 
straight wing, four engine jet bomber was never 
put into full production because of technical dif- 
ficulties. Only a handful of Bison were ever built 
and were stationed at an airfield north of Moscow. 
The Tu-95 Bear would become the mainstay of the 
Soviet Air Force (refer to Fig. 9: 1956 U-2 picture 
of a handful of Bison bombers at an airfield north 
of Moscow). 

In a memo dated 17th July, 1956 to President 
Eisenhower, analysis of U-2 pictures taken on its 
first overflight of the Soviet Union showed that 

"there can be no doubt of the photographic cov- 
erage obtained on 4 July, 1956 of five of the seven 
highest priority targets specified by the USAF. 
This mission was indeed timely in that it revealed 
no heavy jet bombers at any of the five bases cov- 
ered, even though current intelligence estimates 




dictated the presence of regiments of such bomb- 
ers at at least two of the five bases." 4 

In 1957 and 1958 Prime Minister Diefen- 
baker and President Eisenhower would discuss 
a number of bilateral issues, including the Arrow 
Program. Eisenhower provided Diefenbaker with 
enough of a briefing on what had been determined 
from the U-2 overflights for there to be confidence 
that Soviet bombers would not play a significant 
threat to North America. 

Shortly after a high level discussion in 1958, 
the Prime Minister of Canada would make the fol- 
lowing announcement in the House of Commons 
on September 23rd, 1958: 

"... the number of supersonic interceptor air- 
craft required for the RCAF air defence command 
will be substantially less than could have been 
foreseen a few years ago, if in fact such aircraft 
will be required at all in the 1960's in view of the 
rapid strides being made in missiles by both the 
United States and the U.S.S.R. The development 
of the Canadian supersonic interceptor aircraft, 
the CF-105 or the 'Arrow', was commenced in 1953 
and even under the best of circumstances it will 
not be available for effective use in squadrons until 
late in 1961. Since the project began, revolution- 
ary changes have taken place which have made 
necessary a review of the program in light of the 
anticipated conditions when the aircraft comes 
into use." 1 

In light of the information now available, 
including both the declassified Arrow papers and 
the history we now know of the 1950s and 1960's, 
outright cancellation of the program reflected the 
best information then available about the Soviet 
Air Force and its small fleet of intercontinental 

I invite the National Archives of Canada, 
the Eisenhower Presidential Library and the 
appropriate archives of collegial Governments to 

sharp rripr-rmnriWe. rHctririrrif ri,-nirt-l-.» IT T „»■„,•„-„„, 


may have truly influenced the Arrow cancellation 

'Information for this section of the paper 
comes from various independent sources, includ- 
ing the recollection of individuals stationed with 
2nd Fighter Wing on 17th September, 1956 and 
from R.C.A.F. records from the National Archives 
of Canada. There are, unfortunately, conflict- 
ing and inaccurate accounts regarding the events 
surrounding the loss of the U-2 and the death of 
Pilot Howard Carey. The claim that Carey was on 
a "training mission" conflicts with reports that the 
U-2 was tracked arriving in West German airspace 
from the East. Standard operating procedures for 
the U-2 was to undertake all training within the 
airspace of the continental USA. 

Tndependent confirmation of the "Cana- 
dian Incident" is to be found in Francis Gary 
Power's 1970 book "Operation Overflight" SBN: 
03-083045-1 published in May 1970 page 49-50. 
Francis Gary Powers was a colleague and friend of 
Howard Carey. 

'The high powered Type 80 radar station at 
Metz manned by Canadians tracked all the U-2 
flights in and out of the air base at Wiesbaden 
and the CIA station at Giebelstadt. The Canadian 
pilots of 2 and 3 Fighter Wing had a nickname for 
the U-2 - they called it "the Beast". The Mark 6 
Canadair CF-86 Sabres, equipped with Orenda 
jet engines, could fly up to 50,000 feet at 0.92 
Mach, much higher and faster than the American 
F-86's. Beginning in 1956 Canadian pilots from 2 
and 3 Fighter Wing routinely vectored onto U-2's 
as they descended from their operational altitude 
of 70,000 ft as the pilots completed the last leg of 
their high altitude photo-reconnaissance missions 
over Eastern Europe or the Soviet Union. 

"17 July, 1956 AQUATONE memo to U-2 Proj- 
ect Director Richard Bissell from Herbert I. Miller. 
AQUATONE was the code name for the photo- 
graphic intelligence gathered by the U-2. This 
memo was passed on to and read by President 

'Hansard, Parliament of Canada, September 
23rd, 1958 

Patrick Bruskiewich is Editor In Chief of the 
CUPJ and is a former Naval Reserve officer. He 
is presently a doctoral candidate at the Depart- 
ment of Physics and Astronomy at UBC. He can be 
reached at 

Figure 8: 1957 U-2 picture of Baikonur taken 
from 20,000 metre altitude. 

Figure 9: 1956 U-2 picture of Bison bombers at 
an airfield north of Moscow. 


Canadian Undergraduate Physics Journal 3 1